Draft time is almost here and once again we have compiled our Top 5 Lists for a variety of categories. Here are some breakdowns on some the top 2018 NBA Draft prospects in their particular fields and our Top 5 Lists in a number of categories.
At 6’11”, Bagley’s combination of strength, quickness and leaping ability is special. While there are concerns over his defensive awareness and how legitimate his shooting stroke is, he is absolutely a high level NBA athlete as a big man. He also played with as consistent of energy as virtually any player, regardless of class, in the nation. Constantly able to attack and get past even smaller defenders, if he shows any ability to defend the post he could become a dominant player. Bagley’s speed off the floor, head at the rim type of game will immediately put numbers on the board and is the main factor in why he will hear his name called among the top few picks. You can expect to get one of the better offensive rebounders in college basketball, lightning quick second jump and a high level finisher who will be able to get shots around the hoop at a solid rate.
Strongest Player: Deandre Ayton
Ayton is an absolute physical marvel that is strong now, with the ability to likely put even more girth on his frame without losing too much mobility. With a very similar physical profile to Joel Embiid, Ayton was probably even further ahead physically at a similar stage of development. He was a dominant post presence and while he at times fades to the perimeter, he is very tough to keep out of the paint or off the glass. Once he learns to further harness his physical gifts, he should be headed towards being one of the league’s strongest players. When you add how well he runs the floor to the equation, it’s easy to envision him being a terror in the more open, modern game. There are legitimate concerns surrounding his defensive awareness, but if he can learn the nuances on that end of the floor, he could develop into a dominant two-way player.
Fastest Player: Collin Sexton
Sexton was at times a demolition crew for Alabama, with memorable moments including his valiant 40-point effort against Minnesota while playing 3-on-5 for the last 10 minutes in a game they narrowly lost 89-84, and a full court scramble buzzer beater in a crucial SEC tournament win over Texas A&M. The year definitely had its ups and downs for “Young Bull”, but he was able to get his shot off with his quick hands and speed off the dribble. This also helps him as an on-ball defender and is still a big reason Sexton is seen as a probable lottery pick. There is a lot more to basketball than ability in isolation, but if you are looking for someone who can create his own shot and has the ability to blow by defenders and get to any spot on the floor he desires, Sexton would be that player in the 2018 Draft.
Most Explosive: Zhaire Smith
Smith was a recruit that seemed to go completely under-the-radar before college, or at the very least did not seem to come up in the rankings of the popular recruiting sites. That did not last for long once people got eyes on Texas Tech, as he was a tremendous defender who could get off the floor in a hurry, elevating for highlight blocks and dunks for a team that went to the Elite 8. Other players may have slightly out leaped Smith at the combine, but his athleticism was so evident while watching him play and very applicable to the next level. He has skyrocketed among the top players in this draft class and rightfully so, as he has shown strong instincts to go with his exceptional speed and bounce.
Jason Maxiell Award: Mohamed Bamba
Last years winner, Sebastian Saiz, had even more of a difference in his height without shoes and wingspan than Jason Maxiell (10.5” to 10.25”, respectively). Bamba not only smashed the combine wingspan record, but seeing as he likely will have a pretty long NBA career, it looks like next year this will be the Mohamed Bamba award. With a 7’10” wingspan, an absurd 10.75” longer than his 6’11.25” height without shoes, Bamba has many fans among the draft community due to his high level defensive upside. The 2nd leading shot blocker in the NCAA, Bamba also averaged a solid 10.5 rpg, was a lob threat on offense and takes up a ludicrous amount of space due to his length and quickness at his size. If his re-tooled jump shot is for real, he does everything you want your big to do while having no one longer than him getting consistent minutes in the league. This is why there are some who feel Bamba has more upside than anyone in this draft, although the offense in general is still a major “if” at this point.
Best Shooter: Trae Young
Yes, Young did only shoot 36% 3PT during his lone (and mostly spectacular) season in Norman. While you cannot blame everything on his team, Young did have a massive offensive burden at Oklahoma and while many of his shots were forced, it seems that this may have at times been out of necessity. When it was working, Young was absolutely spectacular, with either a pull-up long-range barrage, the ability to run off screens or the potential he showed off the catch. It is safe to say that teams knew the scouting report on Young and more often than not, he would still get a bevy of three-point makes. In a league where shooting is becoming as important as it ever has, Young might end up shooting better than he did in college without as much responsibility on offense and should make long-range shots at a very high volume right away.
Best Passer: Luka Doncic
The NCAA assist leader Young got consideration here as well, though Doncic takes it due to posting a much higher assist-to-turnover ratio. Not to mention he is doing this in the ACB and Euroleague, where it is much more difficult to rack up numbers in the assist column. With a great ability to push the ball, pass on the move and throw skip passes on a dime to corners; Doncic will spread the floor immediately. No one in this Draft class reads the game better and while he will undoubtedly need to catch up to the speed of the NBA game, he has been nothing but efficient at every level he has played. His shooting at the NBA will be something to keep an eye on and it may be a tad more difficult for him to maintain efficiency in terms of getting his own offense, but expect him to make plays for others right out of the gate. This aspect of Doncic’s game is why many see him becoming a winner at the next level and why some envision him as the premier player in this years draft.
Best Perimeter Defender: Jevon Carter
Steals are a statistic that seems to translate from level to level, and Carter has been getting them at a high rate his entire college career. The unquestioned leader of “Press Virginia” over the past number of years, anyone who played Carter had to be alert any time they put the ball on the floor or passed in his area. He has great instincts, strength and lateral ability that lead you to believe he will be a great back-up option. With his improvement as a shooter over the past couple of years, if he can provide offense while giving ball handlers headaches, Carter could be a great value pick.
Best Post Defender: Jaren Jackson Jr.
The youngest NCAA player in the draft, Jackson could absolutely challenge Mohamed Bamba as the preeminent defensive presence at the next level. His awareness was incredibly impressive, as he would play great angles while showing an ability to switch onto smaller defenders and block shots on the perimeter. His block rate of 14.3% was actually greater than Bamba’s 13.1%, while he is also more than a year younger. Jackson may not have equally insane length to Bamba, though he is plenty long, stronger and shows a great intelligence as a defender with a relentless energy. The NBA pedigree with his father is definitely notable as well; and it seems like Jackson’s amazing physical tools and work ethic have made him a favorite among scouts.
Most Backcourt Versatility: Troy Brown
A lot of his potential comes down to his shooting ability, but the all-around skillset Brown displays with a team construct is why he has gotten so much hype as a great utility wing. With flashes of Shaun Livingston with his size, ability to handle the ball and potential to get shots up over smaller wings, Brown showed a great handle and keen passing eye during his time at Oregon. Playing point guard for a majority of his high school career, Brown should be able to defend the wing while making a competent secondary ball handler. He guarded a bevy of positions and may even have the size and ability to play 1-4 in the league. He is a player that does not need to score to make an impact with his great nose for the ball and unselfish style, though his offense definitely appears to still be workable.
Highest Risk/Reward: Michael Porter
Porter was the RSCI (cumulative recruiting rankings) #2 prospect, and was #1 until the last minute reclassification of Marvin Bagley. He was seen as possibly the best scorer in the class, with ability from all three levels, athleticism and great confidence that helped him stand out amongst his peers. When Porter went down with a hip injury two minutes into his first college game, there was some definite concern. Porter needing back surgery, which was supposed to sideline him for the entire college season, only exacerbated this concern. He came back to play Missouri’s last two games, but shot poorly, lacked his typical explosiveness and did not seem like his typical self. Are scouts going to trust what they saw with Porter before he played his first game at Missouri, which included impressive performances from the Peach Jam, 2016 U18 FIBA Americas (where Porter led the team in scoring over last years #1 pick, Markelle Fultz), the high school All-Star circuit and the Hoop Summit? Or are they going to worry about the injuries and focus on the areas which Porter never got to expand on; such as ball handling, playmaking for others (0 college assists) and his willingness to put his body on the line? We will find out on Draft night just how worried teams are with his injury history and there is definite risk in taking Porter, but it could pay off with a dynamic scorer if he manages to stay healthy.
1st Round Sleeper: Jerome Robinson
The fact that Robinson got an invite to the green room probably means that he’s not being slept on too heavily. But he could still fall to the late teens, early 20 range and in that case he would be one of the first round’s biggest sleepers. Robinson is a little older and wasn’t a player theat received a ton on hype throughout his high school or college career. But alot of times those are the guys that end up better for it. His skill level is extremely poilished both ball handling and shooting. His ability to get looks at the next level will be key, but the fact that he played along with a high level point guard in Ky Bowman, kind of covered up the fact that he may have more point guard skills than some people realize. He’s got shades of CJ McCollom to his game with his filthy ability to change direction and juke defenders for shots.
2nd Round Sleeper: Anfernee Simons
Simons decided to bypass college as a postgrad at IMG Academy and was considered one of the better guard prospects in the 2018 HS Class. He led the Under Armour Association in scoring last summer, known for his ability to create off the dribble and his deadly shooting stroke, which saw him shoot 41.4% 3PT on 2.4 made 3FG per game. Simons was one of the stars of the combine as well, posting numbers teams love to see from their guards (32” standing vert, 41.5” max vert, 3.1 ¾ court sprint) on solid measurements for a point guard. Though some question his playmaking skills and note that he will need to add strength, there is definitely a chance Simons could be instant offense. Shot creation is always a key for guards; and Simons has shown the ability to get his own shot, upside as a three level scorer and some solid long-range efficiency. He may have a 1st round promise somewhere as teams were looking at him during workouts and he recently went in for a 2nd workout with the Portland Trail Blazers. He might start off as a back-up combo, but there is upside for more down the line.
Undrafted Sleeper: Alize Johnson
Johnson is a multi-dimensional forward with the ability to score, rebound and pass. He’s one of those position-less players who could be a solid role player in the league. On top of the fact that he plays at a mid-major at Missouri State and turned 22 in April, he did not have a huge statistical season making it questionable for him to be selected. On top of his rebounding and scoring ability, Alize’s most intriguing attribute might be his passing ability. Scouts that saw him perform in Houston at adidas Nations in the summer of 2017, saw a versatile forward with an intriguing inside outside game, with shades of Draymond Green or Stephen Jackson.
Jason Maxiell Award (Largest Difference Between Height Without Shoes and Wingspan)
High Risk/High Reward
1st Round Sleepers
2nd Round Sleepers